1991 was a year where things seemingly felt weird, when the land paid attention to any and everything that came from the Left Coast. America had been introduced to Rodney King thanks to the LAPD, Ice Cube dropped N.W.A. to become the most talked about man in hip-hop.

It was also the year casual people learned of HIV/AIDS thanks to arguably the happiest basketball player on the planet.

Before the internet, there was cable TV that told you everything. On November 7, 1991, Magic Johnson for once seemed human. Up until then, my wide eyes had seen him play the Bulls in the NBA Finals and played hurt through most of it. He still held firm as the best point guard in the league, bar none and could have carried the Lakers to maybe one more run to the title.

The press conference could be described as hasty at best. No real prompt or anything. Then Magic dropped the bombshell that eradicated all thoughts many had about HIV. Magic, the guy who sold us Converses and was in the LA “Black Pack” with Eddie Murphy & Arsenio Hall had contracted HIV.

HIV/AIDS didn’t officially become a “drop everything, we must talk about this” topic in open until people we idolized started contracting it. Magic was the absolute peak of shocking AIDS stories that broke. Liberace and Freddie Mercury got stuck with the stigma because you knew they were flamboyant and open with their sexuality. Magic on the other hand was a goody goody who enjoyed the lifestyle of being the King Of LA, there wasn’t any way Magic could catch such a “problem”.

But he did.

Magic promptly retired, not knowing what exactly he could do with the disease and also prompting responses from some NBA players (read: Karl Malone) who were completely ignorant on the subject all together. Yes, Magic somehow got grandfathered onto the West’s 1992 All-Star team and (shockingly) won MVP since nobody decided to play defense on him thanks to the disease. He tried a futile comeback for a full season, decided to coach and then became an ambassador for the game, all the while living with HIV.

Looking at Magic today and of course the medications have taken their toll on his once slender frame but it’s ironic listening to Magic’s statements twenty years ago and watching him now. He said he would keep on living and keep on fighting and that he has. He’s outlived some pretty interesting figures, presidents, musicians, legends and more all the while looking at a disease once perceived an instant death sentence and laughing at it with that wide, cheeky grin of his.

Still to this day, Johnson remains my favorite point guard of all time and his fight with HIV has become an inspiring notion to many, regardless of how much money he happens to have. Magic still takes his medications and still is a spokesman for HIV/AIDS awareness.

The first chapter of his public life was all “Showtime”. The latest one is more courageous and outstanding than that.